Is The Metaverse Finished?

The concept of the metaverse has been a hot topic in the tech world over the past few years. With the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, many have speculated that we are on the brink of a new era of the internet, where people can interact with each other and with digital objects in a fully immersive way. 

But a recent article in the Financial Times has suggested that the metaverse may be losing steam and that people are losing interest, and I’m not totally surprised. 

The allure of Virtual Reality and 3D has been a topic that surfaces at least once every decade as a new breakthrough is announced (generally around miniaturisation of the equipment, which has always been too unwieldy to properly take off). 

I can remember the excitement in 1992 when The Lawnmower Man was released, but that was just my first rodeo. The cynic in me was more prevalent when Avatar was released though, and to be honest it’s been downhill from there. 

The article argues that despite the hype around the metaverse, it has failed to live up to expectations. It suggests that the technology required to create a truly immersive metaverse is still in its infancy, and that the current offerings are clunky and unappealing to most people. The article also points out that the metaverse is still a niche market, with only a small number of people actively participating in it.

This should be completely obvious to anyone who has seen an Oculus headset, and even more so to anyone that has had to wear one for more than 20 mins. 

So for me, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse won’t even get out of the starting blocks. 

But what do we actually mean by the ‘metaverse’. Arguably, it’s nothing to do with what Meta is building, and I think that is the confusion. 

When I think of the metaverse, I think of games like Fortnite and Minecraft rather than a more cartoon-like version of Second Life. Those games have developed their own ecosystems that allow users to create their own avatars, buy and sell virtual items and even provide a platform for others to build on top of. 

It’s not completely immersive, but do we really want to spend our lives in a virtual world? We already spend more time on social media than is healthy. If the metaverse is a game that I can drop into and out of when I want to, that’s good for me, thanks. 

Still, I expect this won’t stop Meta pouring more money into the concept, and startups exploring use cases for the technology, and maybe the best outcome is a new use that we haven’t stumbled across yet that will change the world. 

I’d give it another decade or so though.